Thanks to Sepaphor for the inspiration!
To show how almost any theory could fall for the “dead theory”, let’s take a variation of the Squall Dead theory, using Cloud:
Basically, after the sector 5 reactor blew up, Cloud fell to his death.
The rest of the game after that point was simply a fantasy that played out in Cloud’s unconscious mind during the last few moments of his life.
Think about it, everything up until that point was believable.
A mercenary, working for an eco-terrorist group, blowing up polluting reactors, that’s pretty much it.
However after this point things get more and more unbelievable.
1. Flowers broke his fall
A few flowers won’t break a fall from that height, in fact they probably didn’t, they were probably the last thing he actually saw before he suffered a fatal subdural haemorrhage.
What a coincidence that the random flower girl he met earlier that day, happened to be in the ‘church’ he landed in. And then it turns out she’s the last of her species, a species that happens to look exactly the same as humans, and can also speak to the planet. Yeah right.
He probably saw her earlier that day, thought she was hot, and had been dick-thinking about her all afternoon. It’s no wonder he fantasised about her on his deathbed.
Seriously, he couldn’t even figure out his own past. Doesn’t sound like reality to me, it sounds like the way things get muddled up in your head when you’re dreaming.
Which leads us to…
4. The Lifestream
He fell into the centre of the planet and had this psychedelic fantasy about finding himself, then survived and came back to the surface, apparently unscathed! Not to mention it was his childhood friend who hadn’t seen him for 7 years who apparently saved him.
A guy who died, and fell into the core of the planet 7 years ago, is apparently still alive, and controlling clones all over the world, to summon a meteor that will cause enough damage to the planet, that the planet will “heal itself” and turn him into a god.
Seriously, it gets more and more ridiculous as it goes on. Just what you’d expect from an hallucination.
He wins the Chocobo race, despite having never ridden a chocobo before.
He gets away with sneaking on board a military ship without being caught.
He goes into space on a rusting old rocket that can barely stand up.
The list is endless.
Cloud was a loser.
He failed in SOLDIER, and he failed in being an eco-terrorist.
He even failed in his own damn fantasy!
In the reality of the game, Tifa mourns his death for a few days, then totally gets over him, because after all she hasn’t known this guy for 7 years! She marries Barret, adopts Marlene with him, and they run 7th heaven for the next ten years.
Aeris, or as she’s really known in the real world, Tracy, is actually a prostitute, and only sells flowers during the day as cover. (they actually come with her business card attached, which Tifa was horrified to discover in Marlenes bedroom after Cloud gave her the flower)
Zack never existed, Zack was actually Clouds imagined cover for when he was to go on undercover missions, but he never made it into soldier so that never actually happened.
Nibelheim did burn down, but it wasn’t Sephiroth who did it, it was Cloud, with a chip pan, because he’s such a klutz.
Yuffie was actually his girlfriend, but she dumped him, because he was too much of a loser for her.
I’m not sure if this were the actual intention, but it sounds like satire. Any piece of media could have their own “dead” theory. Seraphor rightly points out that many events don’t add up. Of course, this could be said for any Final Fantasy. It’s fantasy, so anything to advance the plot goes. Even in Final Fantasy VIII, the plot reveals certain information not present in the preceding scenes.
But obviously this can’t be true. Cloud has to go into his own mind at least twice in the game.
The first time, he falls into the Lifestream with Tifa:
Tifa and Cloud fall into the Lifestream and into Cloud’s Subconscious where Tifa meets the “true Cloud”. Amid the course of trying to ascertain Cloud’s true memories, they became aware of the thoughts and feelings each was holding.
The “true Cloud” is the part of himself Cloud had tried to deny and the one who remembers his past not as a SOLDIER member, but as a regular footsoldier. This Cloud appears as a young version of him, and is the origin of the voices in Cloud’s head who had tried to remind him of his true self. Tifa helps Cloud piece together the memories of his childhood by comparing their memories to find which are true, and encourages Cloud to believe in his existence. Restored to his true self, Cloud resumes command of the party and is no longer plagued by an inner voice, finally accepting the truth about who he is.
This would be a pretty crazy dream. The dreams shifts perspective from an paralyzed and incoherent Cloud to Tifa. And at this part, Tifa would try to convince Cloud that he’s real. Unless Tifa was merely an extension of Cloud, this isn’t believable. It’s easier to remember Occums Razor in this situation:
Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem.
Keep it simple. Don’t multiple entities beyond necessity. The last time, he enters his mind to free himself from Sephiroth’s grip:
Cloud, sensing Sephiroth is not dead, follows him mentally into the Lifestream and defeats Sephiroth in a final duel of will. He returns to his body with help from Aeris.
Even if this was an elaborate hallucination, ending with the light flash from Holy, it wouldn’t explain how Cloud was able to regain consciousness to see Red XIII and his children.